I love stories about Queensland, especially the regions and small towns; and so I was delighted when Josh Arnold was featured in this week’s episode of the ABC’s “Backroads” with Heather Hewitt. They visited Birdsville, Dajarra and Camooweal, little towns in the far west of the state. For each town, Josh has written a song for the local school and filmed the kids singing it.
I’ve been aware of Josh’s school songs for a while now. An award-winning country music singer, songwriter and guitarist, Josh grew up at the small town of Tara, west of Dalby.
For over a decade, in collaboration with the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba and local councils and groups, Josh has been running a project called Small Town Culture. He visits schools in country towns across Queensland and makes songs with the students.
Josh, a family man and school worker himself, has a gift for getting kids to relax with him and have fun. The children tell him what’s special about their area and the things they like to do. He makes up a song, including their ideas; they learn to sing it, with Josh on guitar. Adults and local musicians get involved, too – especially in a place like Birdsville, where at the time of filming for “Backroads” the school had just three pupils.
A video is filmed, with the kids singing, running, playing, riding dirt bikes, swinging on playgrounds, sliding down sand dunes, cracking whips, on horseback, splashing in creeks; from the green of South East Queensland’s Scenic Rim to the red dirt of Dajarra and Camooweal.
Josh travels with a camera operator, and the production values of the resulting videos are impressive.
Shared on Youtube and elsewhere, they are beautiful, full of sunset shots and happy people, and always the song. The whole process must be an unforgettable delight to all involved, and a source of pride in tiny, isolated places where people rarely see themselves on film.
Blackall, Wallumbilla, Lowood, the Boyne Valley; Miriam Vale to the Gold Coast, Quinalow to Cunnamulla; Charleville, Warwick, Miles, Rockhampton and more. Josh Arnold has been to some places I’ve never visited myself, such as Cooyar, or Darlington. At Ewan, in the dry country back of Townsville, Josh filmed a song at the Outreach Centre of the Charters Towers School of Distance Education.
Along with his school songs project, Josh records his own music, as you can hear and see for yourself on Youtube or his Facebook page.
Josh Arnold is a musician with a great appreciation of people, places and stories. He has a gift.
NB Photos with this story are taken from Josh Arnold’s Facebook page and abc.net.au
Wasn’t it a fabulous episode. And it’s not just country schools Josh visits. A few years ago he came to the city school where I worked before retirement and helped the students compose a wonderful song celebrating the multicultural school community. That song is still sung with great gusto at the end of every school assembly.
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Back Roads is always a highlight but that story was truly uplifting. As they say “ his blood is worth bottling”.
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